“We are blessed with being a downtown church and a lot of cars pass by our church,” said the Rev. Kevin Lobello, senior pastor of Sam Jones Memorial UMC, 100 W. Church St. “We do the nativity to remind the people who pass by what Christmas is truly about and thought we could do the same thing for Good Friday/Easter. We want people to top the hill or drive by the corner and be surprised by the scene to remind them of the depth of God’s love for them.
“I really do not see how anyone can understand and celebrate Easter if they do not understand the import of the Good Friday Crucifixion. We like to think about Easter as being all bright and colorful and joyful. It is bright and colorful and joyful, however it was born in the dark. It was dark when the women went to the tomb that first Easter morning to anoint the body of Christ. They were sad and mourning. The joy came when they realized the importance of empty tomb. That Christ had risen breaking the bonds of sin and death. Without the cross, there would be no salvation, no forgiveness of sin and no Easter. We would not know the depth of God’s love.”
During the presentation, three crosses equipped with small foot rests will enable the performers to stand during their depiction.
“We have approximately 35 people involved in organizing and portraying the scene each year,” said Steve Landrum, coordinator for the Live Passion Scene. “We have nine brave men, three sets of three that rotate on the crosses through the three hours. We have Roman soldiers that the Bible tells us oversaw the crucifixion of Christ and the two thieves. We also have some male and female bystanders, including the disciple John and Mary, the mother of Jesus, dressed in blue that the Bible tells us were both at the scene.
“I hope that our scene brings new meaning to folks in our community of what happened on that Good Friday over 2000 years ago. The Bible teaches that every person that has ever lived on this earth has a sin problem that they can’t do anything about on their own. By God’s standard, you can’t work sin away, pay for it on your own or do anything on your own to erase it. However, the Bible teaches that God loved each of us so much that he provided a way for each of our sin to be paid for, and that was by his perfect Son, Jesus Christ, who willingly went to the cross to pay for every person’s sin in the past, present and future. And Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning to prove that it was all true. And God grants us eternal life, when we transfer our trust onto Christ for making that sacrifice for us. It’s so simple, and so many people want to make it so hard.”
Initially only a cross display, Sam Jones Memorial UMC’s outdoor presentation transformed into the Live Passion Scene at Lobello’s request.
“About 10 years ago, while traveling through Alabama, I came across a little country church that had the most beautiful realistic-size crosses erected in front of the church,” Landrum said. “As a Christian, the scene moved me enough to get out, and take pictures and measurements of the crosses. I took the pictures and idea of the erected crosses back to the men’s ministry of Sam Jones, which I was leading at the time. Several men were excited to not only help raise the money for the wood, but also aid in building them. Wendell Hardin, a Sam Jones member and a former fence builder in town, was integral in helping to build the crosses, and also had the know-how to erect them.
“This was about nine years ago, and for the next five years, it became a tradition to simply erect the crosses each Lenten season and take them down after Easter. When Kevin Lobello became senior pastor of Sam Jones, he approached me and asked if we could make it into a ‘live’ passion scene and we all thought it was a very bold, but great idea for our church. And with a lot of work and planning, we portrayed our first Live Passion Scene in 2014.”
Through the past several years, Lobello believes the Live Passion Scene has been “well received” by the public. “We have received calls and emails in the past thanking us for putting it on,” Lobello said. “Several have talked about meaningful conversations they have had in their cars as they pass by the corner. One of my favorite moments was last year when a school bus rode by our corner after picking up youth from the high school. I could see and hear the young folks asking one another what was going on. I would have loved to have been able to hear those conversations. The main thing I would like people to take away from viewing the scene is a deeper understanding of the depth of God’s love for every single soul.
“I always imagine what it must have been like in heaven during the hours Christ was on the cross. Surely all of heaven was grieving and mourning. I can see the angels talking about intervening on behalf of the Christ while others talk to the Father wondering if there wasn’t another way to bring about forgiveness. I can hear an angel say, ‘It would be easier if …’ and God replies, ‘But it wouldn’t be love.’”